Effective October 1, 2011, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) must inform parents of their legal rights at the beginning of the DCF investigation.
In the past, DCF would sometimes present parents under investigation with a two page document called a "Parent's Right to Know Pamphlet." The pamphlet was 2 pages of questions and answers concerning basic answers to questions surrounding DCF involvement. DCF would often give the Pamphlet to parents at the end of the initial visit after parents had already made damaging statements, signed releases or otherwise already has their rights infringed upon. I am also aware of cases in which the DCF Investigator didn't provide the Pamphlet at all and still other cases where DCF engaged in completely inappropriate and threatening investigatory techniques.
The new law is designed to ensure that parents know their rights at the onset of the DCF Investigation; not after it's too late.
Under the new law DCF must inform parents of the following:
1. The parent is not required to permit DCF into their residence without a warrant;
2. The parent is not required to speak with DCF;
3. The parent is entitled to have an attorney present when the parent is questioned by DCF:
4. Any statements made by the parent may used against the parent;
5. DCF cannot provide legal advice;
6. The parent is not required to sign any document presented by DCF. This will hopefully negate a classic technique by DCF whereby they coerce a parent into signing releases or Service Agreements under the threat of removing the child unless the parent signs the presented document(s).
7. DCF is also required to advise parents that they should communicate with DCF or immediately seek the advice of a qualified attorney.
These new requirements will hopefully maintain the integrity of the DCF investigation by balancing the rights of parents to raise their children free from state intrusion while allowing DCF to safeguard children who legitimately need their protection.